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Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Hitler's Pope? The media thought otherwise at the time

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 18, 2013

The complaints that then-Father Bergoglio once collaborated with a brutal Argentine military regime—complaints that were raised within minutes after his election as Pope Francis—are already collapsing for want of evidence. But don’t assume that the complaints will go away. Lack of evidence has never stood in the way of journalists interested in smearing a Pontiff.

Consider the continuing assault on the reputation of Pope Pius XII, who is still sometimes characterized by his critics as “Hitler’s Pope.” There is no evidence that Pope Pius sympathized with the Nazis, and a great deal of solid evidence that he worked energetically to protect Jews from the Holocaust. Still the defamation campaign persists.

Since we have papal elections on our minds these days, let’s take a look back to 1939, and see how the election of Pius XII was perceived by—oh, say, the Los Angeles Times

The first line of the front-page headline was straightforward and factual…

Cardinal Pacelli Elected as 262nd Pope;

…and then the 2nd line told readers what the election meant:

Choice Regarded as Blow to Nazis.

The Times saw the election as a setback for Hitler, and felt sure the Nazi leader would see it the same way:

The choice of Cardinal Pacelli is believed certain to provoke annoyance in Germany, where he long has been regarded as a moving spirit behind the Vatican's opposition to Nazi policies. [emphasis added]

Notice how much is packed into that one sentence. The Times tells us that:

  • the Vatican opposed Nazi policies
  • The Times was aware of the Vatican’s opposition
  • Nazi leaders were also aware of that opposition
  • Cardinal Pacelli was seen—by the Nazis and by the Times--as the main source of the Vatican’s opposition

All this from a neutral, secular source at the time those historic events were unfolding.

H/T to Dave Pierre, The Media Report.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: dfp3234574 - Apr. 27, 2018 2:15 PM ET USA

    Say what you want about the College of cardinals, but there is NOT an "ongoing mutual solidarity in covering up and avoiding responsibility for the abuse of minors."

  • Posted by: fenton1015153 - Apr. 26, 2018 10:49 AM ET USA

    This is entrenched bureaucracy. Is this what Christ had in mind? I doubt it. The Vatican needs a good cleaning. The Church demands this house cleaning. How many pray for the Church today? We need to pray and pray. The loss of a soul is a profound loss to God let alone to the individual who will have all eternity to suffer. Pray!!!!!

  • Posted by: feedback - Apr. 25, 2018 7:04 PM ET USA

    No sane person finds sexual abuse of minors acceptable. The only way to explain the ongoing mutual solidarity in covering up and avoiding responsibility for the abuse of minors in the Church is that all the involved shared similar deviant sexual preferences.

  • Posted by: Defender - Mar. 18, 2013 10:19 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Pacelli. who had lived in Germany, drafted Mit Brennender Sorge (With Deep Anxiety) for Pius XI and had experienced the Brown Shirts himself. Purveyors of yellow journalism don't deserve to be called journalists.